On a number of occasions throughout the first four days of camp, Malcolm Jenkins has done an excellent job reading the play in front of him, breaking on the pass, and nearly coming up with interceptions. It has been encouraging to see that from a guy who should really still be learning the defense. However, you would have liked to have seen him finish the play on those occasions.
Jenkins' play has reminded me a little bit of Brandon Boykin last year in training camp, who had a boatload of pass breakups early in camp. He punished himself with pushups for every pass he broke up but did not intercept, as he felt that anything he got his hands on should be a pick. As camp wore on, Boykin started creating turnovers instead of just breaking up passes, and that carried over into the regular season.
Until today, day four of practice, Eagles quarterbacks had not yet thrown an interception. Today, they threw four. Jenkins picked off Mark Sanchez early in practice, and he got Nick Foles for a pick six late in the day. It was only a matter of time before Jenkins started to make bigger plays on the football when he had correctly diagnosed the play in front of him. Foles described how Jenkins got him after practice.
"Malcolm did a great job," said Foles. "It was 'Cover 0.' It was 3rd and 2 in the situation. I was trying to throw an out route, which is very tough in that situation, and he did a great job of 'in-and-outing' the route, cutting the route.
"There were two receivers, there were two DBs. One guy went flat, and the guy Malcolm was originally over, he switched them, whereas it originally looked like it was going to be zero man coverage, which it was. But they 'in-and-outed' me in coverage, which was a great job by them in that play because it gave Malcolm leverage on the throw, and he made a great play on it. He got me."
"Malcolm has added true leadership to our back end," said DeMeco Ryans speaking after practice. "He's a guy who has stepped in and been vocal, stepped in and made plays for us. He's not afraid to make the calls, and he's done a great job fitting in with our defense. He's the piece we've been missing."
Foles agreed. "I think Malcolm is doing a great job not only picking up the defense, but being a leader. He's making plays out there like he did all throughout the day. He's aggressive, and the guys respond to him. And then in the locker room, a lot of guys look up to him, and he's a great player to have on this team."
Normally, when I hear a player is a "leader," or "smart," or "vocal," or he "fits in well," I liken those kinds of compliments to the girl you're being set up with who "has a great personality." However, from what I've seen from Jenkins so far in his short time here, I buy it.
• If you're tired of hearing about Jordan Matthews, I apologize, but the guy makes it difficult not to write about him because he makes a ton of catches every day. Today, he went up high and hauled in a TD catch in the back of the end zone over a defender. He was also involved in a comical moment in which Nolan Carroll had a chance to dive in front of him for an INT. The defensive players on the sideline, who had the play right in front of them, all began to celebrate the pick, when Matthews, laying on his back, was all too pleased to hold the ball in the air to show them that he had made the catch and not Carroll.
In 2013, Vanderbilt finished 67th in passing yards, and 92nd in rushing yards. To say the least, their offense was less than spectacular. And yet, Matthews finished 4th in the country in 2013 both in receptions and yards.
In other words, Jordan Matthews basically was Vanderbilt's offense. Of the 32 receivers that were selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, Matthews had the highest percentage of his team's receiving yards, at a whopping 49.93%. (Click here to enlarge graph)
Matthews had been mainly running with the second team offense in practice, meaning that he has not had to share the field with Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper all that often. He has also not had to play against the first team defense all that much yet, which has helped. Still, Matthews is racking up catch after catch after catch, much like he did at Vanderbilt.
I was careful to note yesterday that Matthews' numbers in 2014 will likely disappoint some folks after all the preseason hype he has generated. For now, however, it's just fun watching him dominate.
• The Eagles are making a lot of back shoulder throws early here in camp. That is not something they did a lot of last year. "I think that's something that's a great addition to the offense," said Foles, who mentioned Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady as quarterbacks who have mastered the back shoulder throw. "I definitely always want to improve my game. So what's the best way to improve your game? By watching (the great ones), and learning why they were so great in what they do."
• A rundown of the INTs today: Jenkins got Sanchez and Foles, as noted above. Boykin got Sanchez, and Cary Williams got Matt Barkley. Earl Wolff also stepped in front of a bad Foles throw over the middle that should have been picked, but Wolff couldn't bring it in. GJ Kinne is the only Eagles QB to have not thrown an INT yet.
• Damion Square had a batted pass at the line of scrimmage today, which is something the Eagles' defensive staff emphasizes. That was the first batted pass that I've seen so far.
• A number of you have asked about rookie undrafted free agent RB Henry Josey out of Missouri. He caught my eye today with an impressive catch on the run that he had to extend for. Josey never broke stride and was able to pick up yards after the difficult catch.
Who won the day?
July 26: Mark Sanchez
July 27: Eagles running backs
July 28: Jordan Matthews
July 30: Malcolm Jenkins
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